After witnessing a number of bloggers who I respect and follow (Mike Elgan, Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble, etc.) switch to Google+ as their primary blogging platform, I have decided to do the same. It's a far more versatile platform and comes with a larger audience than I could ever garner here. I have copied all of these blog posts over there, and henceforth will make new posts there instead here. Please include me in your circles if you'd like to continue following my investigations and ruminations about the art and science of aging well or not at all. Thanks!
I found the compelling graph below on the website of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Since I doubt that we all suddenly stopped exercising in the late 70s, it would appear that all the trouble with obesity started when dietary fat was vilified in official government guidelines and ads by the food conglomerates:
Bottom line: Stop -- just STOP -- thinking "low fat" in your diet. Reprogram yourself to think low carbs instead, which means "Paleo" as I've mentioned time and time again here. Simple as that.
I just read an article that really got my attention. Like many baby boomers, I've thought more and more about the maladies that seem to be related to aging -- heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's. I've tussled with the first and the second doesn't really run in my family so I don't think about it very often. The third -- Alzheimer's -- is of particular interest to an intellectual Capricorn who spends most of his days using his head rather than his hands in pursuit of the good life and general happiness. And up until now, in my mind at least, I've wondered whether and how much I'll be at risk of suffering this gradual, insidious decline in mental functioning.
An article today published in Popular Science discusses how science is on the verge of relating Alzheimer's to what you eat. This is totally fascinating to me, but not totally surprising to someone who already recognizes the effect of food on virtually everything related to longevity, from life extension to the incidence of the major killers. Here's the article reprinted in its entirety. Please read it and let us know what you think in the comments:
The root causes of Alzheimer’s disease are still a scientific uncertainty, though there’s no lack of suggestions and opinions circulating in the biomedical community. But here’s one we hadn’t yet heard that is gaining traction amid increasing evidence: Alzheimer’s is primarily a metabolic disease much like diabetes. At its root, a poor diet can be the instigator of this degenerative neurological condition. The evidence is so stark that some scientists have even taken to referring to Alzheimer’s as type 3 diabetes.
The latest cover of New Scientist (released September 1) carries a story that has pushed this theory into the popular consciousness, apparently, and the evidence indeed paints a dire picture: 35 million Alzheimer’s sufferers worldwide, with that number expected to increase to 100 million by 2050 based on population aging. Tripling rates of type 2 diabetes in the U.S. alone, where it’s no secret that our diets are less than perfectly healthy. And there are distinct relationships between incidences of Alzheimer’s and either a lack of natural insulin in the body or an impairment of the brain’s ability to respond to it.
First, a quick primer on diabetes. Without going into textbook detail, diabetes (type 2 , anyhow, which is the most common form) describes a condition in which the body experiences excessive blood glucose. This is caused by a deficiency in insulin (and hence why patients use insulin pumps or injections to remedy their blood sugar imbalances). Insulin is a hormone that is naturally produced in the body to signal the liver, muscles, and body fat to absorb glucose from the blood. Diabetes indicates either an impairment of the body’s ability to produce insulin, or some kind of inability in glucose-absorbing organs and tissues to receive and act on those insulin signals.
There’s a long-established link between Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes as well as with obesity, but what’s becoming increasingly obvious from study after study is that those who die of Alzheimer’s are generally found to have low insulin levels in the brain. This has led researchers to conclude that insulin isn’t just produced in the pancreas, but in the brain as well, and here it plays a vital role in neuron signaling as well as cell growth and lifespan.
This isn’t hard fact or scientific principle just yet, but the evidence is mounting, further reinforcing something that we all know is intrinsically true: you really are what you eat. You’ll need a free login to read the piece at New Scientist, but there’s additional context over at the Guardian.
A recent article by Gary Taubes in the New York Times entitled "What Really Makes Us Fat" reported on a study done by Dr. David Lugwig of Boston Children's Hospital. Mr. Taubes article begins by stating what most of us learned in school:
"A CALORIE is a calorie. This truism has been the foundation of nutritional wisdom and our beliefs about obesity since the 1960s.
"What it means is that a calorie of protein will generate the same energy when metabolized in a living organism as a calorie of fat or carbohydrate. When talking about obesity or why we get fat, evoking the phrase “a calorie is a calorie” is almost invariably used to imply that what we eat is relatively unimportant. We get fat because we take in more calories than we expend; we get lean if we do the opposite. Anyone who tells you otherwise, by this logic, is trying to sell you something."
The study by Dr. Ludwig was elegant in its simplicity yet astonishing in its definitive results:
"... First they took obese subjects and effectively semi-starved them until they’d lost 10 to 15 percent of their weight. ... Dr. Ludwig’s team then measured how many calories these weight-reduced subjects expended daily, and that’s how many they fed them. But now the subjects were rotated through three very different diets, one month for each. They ate the same amount of calories on all three, equal to what they were expending after their weight loss, but the nutrient composition of the diets was very different.
"One diet was low-fat and thus high in carbohydrates. This was the diet we’re all advised to eat: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean sources of protein. One diet had a low glycemic index: fewer carbohydrates in total, and those that were included were slow to be digested — from beans, non-starchy vegetables and other minimally processed sources. The third diet was Atkins, which is very low in carbohydrates and high in fat and protein.
"The results were remarkable. Put most simply, the fewer carbohydrates consumed, the more energy these weight-reduced people expended. On the very low-carbohydrate Atkins diet, there was virtually no metabolic adaptation to the weight loss. These subjects expended, on average, only 100 fewer calories a day than they did at their full weights. Eight of the 21 subjects expended more than they did at their full weights — the opposite of the predicted metabolic compensation.
"On the very low-carbohydrate diet, Dr. Ludwig’s subjects expended 300 more calories a day than they did on the low-fat diet and 150 calories more than on the low-glycemic-index diet. As Dr. Ludwig explained, when the subjects were eating low-fat [high carb] diets, they’d have to add an hour of moderate-intensity physical activity each day to expend as much energy as they would effortlessly on the very-low-carb diet. And this while consuming the same amount of calories. If the physical activity made them hungrier — a likely assumption — maintaining weight on the low-fat, high-carb diet would be even harder."
Bottom line, if you haven't figured it out by now: eat a minimum-carb diet and you'll burn 400 calories/day more just sitting there reading blogs like this, roughly the equivalent of an hour of jogging. Or go the USDA-recommended "low-fat" route and join the other 70+% of the nation who are obese or overweight and headed for pre- or actual diabetes. So get rid of the carbs in your diet. Just say no to wheat and all of its carbohydrate brethren that constitute the vast majority of what the industrial food complex wants you to eat (90% of what's inside your friendly neighborhood supermarket). Increase fats (nuts, avocados, olive oil, etc.) and protein (meats, eggs, cheese, etc.) to compensate, and always focus on greens and veggies. Just think hunter-gatherer -- primal eating is what your body was designed for.
"A renowned cardiologist explains how eliminating wheat from our diets can prevent fat storage, shrink unsightly bulges, and reverse myriad health problems. Every day, over 200 million Americans consume food products made of wheat. As a result, over 100 million of them experience some form of adverse health effect, ranging from minor rashes and high blood sugar to the unattractive stomach bulges that preventive cardiologist William Davis calls “wheat bellies.” According to Davis, that excess fat has nothing to do with gluttony, sloth, or too much butter: It’s due to the whole grain wraps we eat for lunch.
"After witnessing over 2,000 patients regain their health after giving up wheat, Davis reached the disturbing conclusion that wheat is the single largest contributor to the nationwide obesity epidemic—and its elimination is key to dramatic weight loss and optimal health. In Wheat Belly, Davis exposes the harmful effects of what is actually a product of genetic tinkering and agribusiness being sold to the American public as “wheat”—and provides readers with a user-friendly, step-by-step plan to navigate a new, wheat-free lifestyle.
"Informed by cutting-edge science and nutrition, along with case studies from men and women who have experienced life-changing transformations in their health after waving goodbye to wheat, Wheat Belly is an illuminating look at what is truly making Americans sick and an action plan to clear our plates of this seemingly benign ingredient."
What if eating "new wheat" is one of the root causes of America's obesity epidemic? I'm not entirely sure about that, but Dana and I have basically cut all wheat out of our lives for some time now, and feel better for it. I grew up eating WhataBurgers (hence the name of this blog post), so it took much longer than a few weeks for my cravings for sweets and baked goods to disappear, but even my old nemesis cherry pie doesn't particularly interest me any longer. I'd much rather have one of Dana's amazing green drinks, or a nice steak or salmon and salad instead.
I'd be interested in hearing your opinions and/or experiences about modern wheat in your diet in the comments.
What a fun Discovery Channel video series that summarizes in entertainment form what's going on in terms of life extension. The trailer is embedded below, and all the video episodes can be watched here. Enjoy!
Another post focusing on a TED video that I cannot resist sharing and one that deserves very little commenting otherwise. Peter Diamandis, creator of the various X Prizes and Singularity University with my hero Ray Kurzweil, wrote the book by the same name. Watch his recent TED talk to get a sense of why I'm so excited to be alive now, hope to stick around awhile to witness his predictions come true, and am working right now on my own 10^9 project in learning technology. I promise that, like the TED audience here, you will feel like leaping to your feet in response to this one!
Same age, but one with supplements.
The mainstream media has been inundated with negative news about supplements lately. One after another article has been published about how nutritional supplements (of the sort that I take every day) not only offer uncertain health benefits, but moreover that they might actually be bad for you. And I have to agree that, taken mindlessly without appropriate health data monitoring, that could very well be the case.
However, an article in CBC News was published today entitled Aging Slowed in Mice with Supplement Mix. It states:
It might be possible to cure aging, say scientists who've found that lab mice get smarter and more agile as they age when fed a mix of nutritional supplements. The diet and supplement plan isn't a conventional "cure." But the animal results at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., illustrate how investigators aim to slow down the aging process to avoid the physical and mental declines that often come as more candles are added to the birthday cake. At Prof. David Rollo's biology laboratory, mice that ate bagel bits soaked in a cocktail of supplements such as B vitamins, vitamin D, ginseng and garlic lived longer than those not taking the special mice chow."If you put them on a supplement, they actually learn better as they age," Rollo said. "They still don't live much longer but their brain function is remarkable."
It goes on to report:
The supplemented mice maintained their memory function in tests, such as remembering a familiar object. Their learning abilities were like those of very young mice, he said. Mice of the same age that were not supplemented behaved in lab tests like a frail 80-year-old woman. Most of the supplements Rollo and his team use are sold at health food stores. But he cautioned they are not something to be toyed with because the cocktail hasn't been tested to see if it is safe for people.The supplements cross the blood-brain barrier to affect the mitochondria "furnaces" in the brain in a fundamental way, he noted.
As usual, the article ended with the warning: "Scientists still don't how the supplements actually work and interact in the body." As with the complexities of the internal combustion engine, I don't understand how it all works either, but that doesn't stop me from driving my car. Based on results like these, I still take my own customized cocktail of supplements and enjoy the way they make me feel better every day.
Another very short post today, anchored by a video from Dr. Mike Evans of the Health Design Lab at the University of Toronto. In it, he asks the simple question: “Can you limit your sitting and sleeping to just 23.5 hrs per day?” You might think this a silly question until you realize that you probably spend virtually your entire day sleeping, couch-surfing, and sitting in a chair at your desk or at a meal. There are really just two scientifically-proven ways to extend the human lifespan -- calorie restriction and exercise. And the New York Times just published some recent evidence that exercise reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer's or change the course of the disease if you do.
So ... what excuse do you have for just sittin' there on your butt? Get up and move ... Now!
Another short post, this time a short 11-minute video that covers how sick our current healthcare system is and offers hope about how it will get better via mobile platforms, 24 hour at-home monitoring, artificial intelligence, social networking, massive data collection, crowd-sourcing, even a few tidbits from my passion of aviation. It's a TEDMed talk by stem cell researcher Dr. Daniel Kraft: